Thursday, March 31, 2011

How To Bust A 3 Month Plateau

Yep, you read it right. 3 MONTHS! At the exact same weight (which was 150 lbs). And such a torturous number to be at. I think it would have been less painful if I was stuck at 148 or something. But, I knew it wouldn't last forever, it was just a matter of adjusting how I approach losing weight at this point in the game. It's like the final huddle before the last 10 seconds on the clock are about to run out. Sometimes, you need to change your strategy to win! 
So that's pretty much what I've been doing, adjusting my strategy. Given that I'm 10 lbs from a healthy weight, it seemed that my approach that lost me the first 65 lbs wasn't going to work for the last 10.  When you are near that point, a high calorie deficit is actually a bad thing! At the rate I was working out, my calorie deficit was too large and I went into a rather long and painful starvation mode. But, have no fear, I'm here to explain what I did to bust a plateau in hopes that other people in my situation can get out of their own plateaus.
1.) Look at your net calories!  - I could easily get away with netting 500-700 calories a day before. I thought people who ate exercise calories were crazy. Then I realized how it all works. MFP already gives you a deficit (like mine set to 1 lbs a week is 500 calories a day). Working out only adds to that deficit. So after exercise my deficit was 1000+ calories a day. That's a 2 lbs a week loss! Which is fine if I'm significantly over a healthy weight. But I'm not, I'm 10 lbs above a healthy weight. So that high of a deficit just lead me into a long starvation mode period. I was like "I'm not hungry, I don't need to eat more". That's all the reason to eat more! Your metabolism has shut down. Now that I eat more, I'm hungry ALL THE TIME! I eat every 2 hours. I'm netting at least 1000 calories a day. And I think that has been the biggest difference in why things started working again.
2.) Reassess your exercise plan -  You need to think about your workouts. Is it really getting my heartrate up? Do I feel sore afterwards? Am I working out consistantly? Do I have both cardio and strength training in my schedule? If you answer no to one or more of these, you might be in danger of getting too used to your exercise schedule. Throw in some interval training, add in a day of strength training, take up a new exercise (for me it was running 3-4 days a week plus cardio plus strength). If you don't force your body to change, it's not going to...
3.) What and when exactly are you eating? - There's a big difference in what people can eat for 1200 or 1500 calories a day. Empty calories aren't really going to do anything for you. The key is the right amount of nutrient dense foods.  I've adopted a plan to focus on eating more carbs in the afternoon prior to a workout, and then as much protein as possible in the evening after a workout. I make sure I hit 100g of protein a day, and I stay under my carb and fat limits (I have it set to 45% carbs, 25% fat, and 30% protein). My trainer explained it to me that I need carbs to burn as fuel during my workouts, and then protein after to repair my muscles. 
4.) Give your changes some time! - I admit, I was completely impatient with this process. I'd give it a week, get frustrated something wasn't working and I'd try to change things again. Finally I said I just need to wait and see. So I gave it about 2 weeks, and sure enough last week the scale started to inch down. And then it really started moving! I've gone down 1.5 lbs in the last week! So, even if things don't work the first week, give it another week or two to see results! 

So that's my advice to you, it's what ultimately busted my plateau. I'm not saying it will work for everyone, but it seems to be a common tale around here that people who are close to their goal weight need to EAT MORE to get out of the plateau, not less. As long as you are accurate with your logging on a regular basis, feel free to experiment with adding calories. Don't jump from 1200 to 1800 overnight, but start incoporating more over a 2 week period. I might need to eat even more if the scale stops again, it's all a game really.
I'm happy to answer questions if you have more, just post below or PM me! 

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